Unbound Gravel Race

Unbound Gravel, formerly known as Dirty Kanza, is a premier gravel cycling race held annually in Emporia, Kansas. The race is renowned for its most challenging and prestigious event: the 350-mile (563-kilometer) route, though it also includes other distances like 25, 50, 100, and main 200 miles, where compete mostly professionals. This grueling event evokes the spirit of the early Tour de France stages, characterized by long, rough gravel courses and the absence of team cars, requiring cyclists to rely solely on their own skills and endurance.


The race takes place on the rough, remote, and rugged gravel roads of the Flint Hills region of Kansas. The terrain is characterized by rolling hills, rocky paths, and minimal pavement, making it a tough test of endurance and bike handling skills.

2024 Participants

Participants include many active professionals from mountain biking and road cycling, as well as numerous racers who have retired from professional competition.

  • Lachtan Morton – EF world tour cycling team member
  • Matej Mohoric – actual Gravel World Champion
  • Greg Van Avermaet – ex-pro rider, olympic 2016 winner
  • Niki Terpstra – Paris-Roubaix winner
  • Alban Lakata – ex-MTB marathon world champion
  •  Jan Bakelants – TdF yellow jersey holder
  • Daniel Oss
  • Petr Vakoc
  • Laurens Ten Dam
Full results HERE

How to get part of Unbound Gravel

To get a spot in Unbound Gravel, start by keeping an eye on the official website and their social media for updates on registration dates and important announcements. When the time comes, you’ll need to enter the lottery system, as the event is hugely popular. Make sure to fill out your application accurately and pay the required entry fee. If you get selected, you’ll receive instructions on how to finalize your registration.

Preparation is key. Begin training well in advance, focusing on building your endurance and gravel riding skills. You’ll need a good gravel bike and the right gear, including the right tires, hydration systems, and repair kits. Nutrition is crucial too, so plan what you’ll eat and drink during the race and practice during your training rides.

Before the race, attend the mandatory rider check-in to pick up your race packet, and don’t miss the pre-race meeting where you’ll get essential information about the course and safety. On race day, get to the start line early to get settled and ready to go. Pace yourself carefully, manage your hydration and nutrition, and be ready to handle any mechanical issues on your own, as the race is self-supported.

After crossing the finish line, take time to celebrate your achievement with fellow riders and enjoy the post-race festivities. Reflect on your experience and give your body the rest it needs to recover. Participating in Unbound Gravel is a remarkable challenge, and with the right preparation, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

History of Unbound Gravel

Unbound Gravel, originally known as Dirty Kanza, was founded in 2006 by Jim Cummins and Joel Dyke. The first race had only 34 participants tackling a 200-mile course through the rugged Flint Hills of Kansas. Over the next few years, the event quickly grew in popularity, thanks to its challenging terrain and unique self-supported format.

By 2011, Dirty Kanza had gained significant traction, drawing cyclists from across the United States. It became known for its tough conditions and the strong sense of camaraderie among participants. The event’s reputation continued to build, leading to even more growth and refinement in its logistics.

Between 2016 and 2019, the race expanded to include additional distances like 25, 50, and 100 miles, as well as the introduction of the extreme 350-mile “XL” race in 2018. This diversification helped cater to a wider range of cyclists, from amateurs to elite professionals. The event also became a significant cultural and economic fixture in Emporia, fostering a strong community spirit.

In 2020, the race was rebranded as Unbound Gravel to better reflect its inclusive and adventurous spirit. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the event adapted and continued to attract a diverse field of participants, including active and retired professional cyclists from various disciplines.

Today, Unbound Gravel is celebrated as a pioneering force in gravel racing. It has inspired similar events worldwide while maintaining its core values of self-reliance, endurance, and community. The race is known for its tough courses and the sense of accomplishment it offers to all who participate.

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